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The Best Restaurants in Fort Lauderdale

When it comes to South Florida dining, Fort Lauderdale and greater Broward County is like Miami’s down-to-earth, beachy sister, serving stellar plates without the pretension. Elegant Italian, late-night Japanese and ocean breeze all help make Fort Lauderdale a dining destination of its own.

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Beachfront: S3

Fort Lauderdale's beautiful beaches are on full display at S3: The restaurant offers Atlantic views from nearly every seat. Scenery aside, this place has plenty of appeal, including multicourse share-a-plate-style meals, great drinks and a sultry indoor-outdoor bar scene with live DJs and fire pits. There are ample reasons to head indoors, too, including a well-appointed Southeast Asian atmosphere and a menu of global eclectic fare, like sushi, oak-grilled steaks, mac 'n' cheese with smoked Gouda and prosciutto, and brisket sliders.

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Photo: Chris Carter

Neighborhood Favorite: Hardy Park Bistro

Since opening its doors in 2013, this casual neighborhood restaurant, just a stone’s throw from Downtown Fort Lauderdale, has become a locally beloved hangout. Former yacht chef Philip Darmon offers homey takes on New American fare with artfully presented dishes that speak to his international travel experiences. The menu features flavorful, well-prepared items such as light and crisp beer-battered snapper for dinner, French toast with apple compote for brunch and a traditional Ploughman’s lunch. His signature burger, accented with tomato chutney and crisp onion, is so popular, it’s available from breakfast through dinner.

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Date Night: Valentino

With crisp white walls, wood-beamed ceilings, vintage-style couches and reclaimed-wood accents, Valentino Cucina Italiana feels like a luxurious Tuscan escape — or a scene from a high-end furniture catalogue. Elegant yet understated, it’s the perfect scene for a romantic night on the town. As memorable as the setting is, the food is even more stunning. Chef Giovanni Rocchio prepares an ever-changing array of innovative, modern Italian cuisine. Everything is made on the premises, from the cavatelli, served with osso buco, bone marrow, ricotta salata and porcini mushroom, to the garlicky lobster Bolognese to the delicate final pastries. The restaurant also hosts epic events, often featuring esteemed winemakers and Michelin-rated chefs from the motherland.

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Seafood: Rivertail

James Beard-nominated chef José Mendin made his way his way north of Miami with his first Fort Lauderdale restaurant in late 2019. Rivertail, located right on the city’s historic Riverwalk along the New River, is his first seafood-driven concept — and it’s one of the hottest tables in town. Featuring family-style shared plates, globally influenced tapas and coastal fare inspired by Mendin’s Puerto Rican roots as well as his love of oyster bars, the creative menu spans from crab doughnuts and shiso-butter-infused bay scallops escargot to Moqueca Mista, a coconut milk- and citrus-laden riff on Bahia-style Brazilian seafood stew. And the place offers one heck of a happy hour with $1 oysters, $2 peel-and-eat shrimp and $3 stone crabs until 7 p.m.

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